Title: You are free in Christ!
Text: John 8:31-36
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Fredrick Douglas once said, “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet [deplore] agitation are men who want rain without thunder and lightning.”
Martin Luther certainly felt the thunder and lightning that he did not expect when he nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg castle church door on October 31, 1517. What he intended for theological debate and discussion caused turmoil, divided the Christian church in two, and marked the beginning of what we know today as the Lutheran Reformation. The freedom that we who name the name of Christ received is in the Son and because of His wonderful work:
You are free in Christ!
Today we remember and celebrate the Reformation of the Church, began by the former Roman Catholic Priest and Augustinian Monk, Martin Luther. We also celebrate the joy that we who today benefit from this blessed freedom found in the Gospel message, and will continue together with the whole church to reach the lost with this same saving gospel.
Jesus tells the believing Jews in our Gospel today who had been following Him that:
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.
To be a disciple is to be a follower of Christ. One who is connected to God’s very words and who abides in them – is one who accepts and acts in accordance with those words.
Martin Luther had this to say about discipleship in his lectures on the Psalms:
“In holy and divine matters one must first hear rather than see, first believe rather than understand, first be grasped rather than grasp, first be captured rather than capture, first learn rather than teach, first be a disciple rather than a teacher and master of his own. We have an ear so that we may submit to others, and eyes that we may take care of others. Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others, let him become an ear and a disciple first.”
–Martin Luther, Lectures on the Psalms II, in Luther’s Works, Volume 11 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1976), 245-46.
And as a disciple Jesus tells the Jews and you as well:
32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
This freedom and liberty of the gospel is what we celebrate today. It is what Luther searched for and why he became a monk – thinking that being locked inside the walls of the monastery and devoting himself to fasting, long hours in prayer, pilgrimages, and frequent confession would keep him away from sin and the power of the devil.
"If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would certainly have done so." He described this period of his life as one of deep spiritual despair. "I lost touch with Christ the Savior and Comforter, and made of him the jailer and hangman of my poor soul."
But later he found true peace in the words of Romans 5:1 which reads:
5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
You too have that peace and are set free in Christ!
Have you felt closed in by the walls of sin? Have you or have your loved ones fled the blessings and peace found only in Christ and his gifts given in word and sacrament? Are you burdened by the Law and a slave to sin?
33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Once again from Luther:
“Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend--it must transcend all comprehension.”
Luther continues to say that "Thus Abraham went forth from his father and not knowing [where he was going]. He trusted himself to [God’s] knowledge, and cared not for his own, and thus he took the right road and came to his journey's end."
"Behold, that end is the way of the cross. You cannot find it yourself, so you must let [God] lead you as though you were a blind man. [So], it is not you, no man, [and] no living creature, but [Christ] Himself, who instructs you by word and Spirit in the way you should go. Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is clean contrary to all that you choose or contrive or desire--that is the road you must take. To that, [Christ] calls you and in that [says] you must be my disciple.”
― Martin Luther
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.
C.S. Lewis had wonderful insight about slavery. He says:
"Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellow man. Aristotle [has said] that some people were only fit to be slaves [and in this] I do not contradict him, Lewis continues … but I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters."
C.S. Lewis in "Equality" from Present Concerns, quoted in Christianity Today, February 3, 1989, p. 31.
The truth is you are bound to sin and its cravings. You desire to do the will of your sinful nature which is in opposition to God’s will, and as a result you fall short daily. The world says, “Deep down he is really a good person” - when the truth is the deeper down you go the worse and worse we get. The more you get to the core of who we are, in our fallen human condition, the more you see the sinfulness of man, corrupted to the core from the beginning, by our first parents Adam and Eve.
But Jesus reminds His hearers and you as well that:
35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
The freedom for the sinner is found only in Jesus. That was the joy that Luther found and what we celebrate in the Reformation. In Christ, true freedom from sin is possible and true liberty for we who are bound with the chains of guilt and despair is broken.
Christ has set free those who could not free themselves by His own binding. The binding of His flesh to the cross in your place, the shedding of His blood for the forgiveness of your sin, the death worthy of a criminal for you and I who are guilty and the burial in a tomb meant for another.
In Jesus’ case … Joseph of Arimathea, for it was his tomb where Jesus was laid. But, the tomb and death was meant for you. Jesus took your place, He took your cross, He took your death and He took your tomb and He made them what you couldn't … life, freedom, liberty, salvation and forgiveness.
Because … if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!
Salvation is all of God and not of man. That is the message of the Reformation. Luther restored the gospel truths about Christ and His merits that had been lost, covered by sin in the church and the focus on earthly rulers, once again by shinning the light of the gospel on Christ’s work, for you.
Because Jesus came to live, suffer, die and rise again for you … because of Christ and His merits … because the Son has set you free … you dear friends are free indeed!
May the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you now and forever.
You are free in Christ!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!